October 16, 2017
 
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DR#: 1 Community: An Essential Element for Mission

Introduction

From the beginnings of the Institute, the mission of those following in the footsteps of the founders was not to simply teach but to truly educate the young, to educate the whole person.  From those beginnings, be it with the young prisoners in silk weaving school, the children in country towns, or in our schools today, an essential element of that educational experience is the formation of a school community.

Today the Rule of Life is adamant about the role of community in the process of mission:
Christian education cannot easily be realized
without the witness of a school community
which is built on close relationships
among teachers, parents, students,
and the local people.  (#156)

Research too, from the work of James Coleman in the 1960’s to the continuing work of Anthony Bryk today, has shown that the formation of a school community is essential to an effective educational experience for the young.  This community is not formed for its own sake.  It is an avenue through which young people experience and live a life reflective of core values and through which they reach out to transform their present and future communities by bringing their experiences to bear in each new setting.

As we begin to break open this understanding of community, we will explore the importance of community in the Rule of Life, the values that lie at the heart of that experience for all involved, especially the expectations of the Rule in terms of a community that reaches out, that looks beyond itself, to bring its experience of community life to fruition in lives lived for others. Although some of these elements refer more to the vision of a community of brothers, they are applicable to the school setting and highlight the values and experiences that are essential to building community in any place.

Balancing the call to community with the realities of everyday life and with the histories of and personalities in our schools is the task of every administrator and of every member of the school community.  Finding ways to bring those values to the fore and nurture them is truly a call to mission, a call of the charism.

Through this experience, the participant will:

  • gain a better understanding of community as it is described in the Rule of Life;
  • deepen his/her own understanding of an educational community;
  • apply that vision to his/her school community; and
  • critique the community of which he/she is a part, challenging it to grow.
 
Readings
  • Rule of Life #156, 157, 159, 160 Community in the school setting
  • #24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30 Values and actions essential to forming community
  • Educational Charism of the US Provinces of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart
  • Brother Polycarp Workbook 2:  Circular, January 1, 1844 (p. 85-89)
Suggestions for Journal Reflection
  1. Create a list of values on which to build a community from these various sources.  How do you see these evident in your own school community?  How could we make them more evident?
     
  2. Both Father Coindre and Brother Polycarp saw a necessary balance between the vision and our reality as fragile human persons.  Their optimism does not remove the obstacles to growth but makes them less daunting.  What are the obstacles to growth that you see in your community and what leadership actions could move your community beyond those limitations?  
     
  3. Charity lies at the core of building any community. Yet charity must be balanced with justice and the effective development of your community.  How does your role involve this balance?  How is this charity lived out in your ministry?
Prayer

Lord, loving God,
you call us to build a community,
founded on the values you demonstrated 
as you built the community of your apostles,
that they in turn lived out 
in the early Christian community.

Today, you call us to build that community daily, 
with students, teachers, staff and parents.

Enable us
to see you in our communities,
to see you evident in our relationships,
to echo your values in our actions,
to embody your spirit in all we do.

May we be people
of faith, of hope and of love.

May our communities
be places of welcome, of growth and of new life.

May our lived experience
echo with values of trust, of charity and of mutual respect.

May we be faithful to the charism
and its call to community,
accepting the daily challenge,
essential to our mission,
to make your love known.

Amen.

Readings

Rule of Life – Community in the School Setting

156. School Community

Christian education cannot easily be realized
without the witness of a school community
which is built on close relationships
among teachers, parents, students,
and the local people.

We wholeheartedly support the establishment
of programs for participation and animation
which give dynamism 
to the school community,
especially through the search
for a common educational vision.

157. Christian Mission of the School

We share with the lay teachers
the responsibility for the religious
and moral formation of the students,
creating an atmosphere 
of understanding and generosity 
which awakens in young people
a sense of community
and a desire to serve others.

In this way, we are helping
to form a dedicated laity
and to develop religious, 
priestly, and missionary vocations.

We are also supplementing
the formation given in the family
and carrying out 
the educational mission of the Church.

159. Apostolic and Moral Awareness

In an atmosphere of respect and trust,
we educate the young
to a sense of personal responsibility.

We also attempt to challenge them
to become involved in social ministry,
to promote justice and peace,
and to appreciate the value of sharing.

We support those students involved
in movements and extra-curricular groups
which promote 
human and Christian formation,
as well as those who feel called
to a special vocation
within the Church or society.

160. Christian Acceptance

In our dealings with people
of different faiths and ideologies,
we look for points of agreement
and we welcome dialogue.

We also foster among the young 
a spirit of acceptance 
which leads them to love all people
regardless of their race, nationality, or creed.

 

Rule of Life – Values and Actions Essential to Forming Community

24. Building Community 

We grow in the spirit of brotherhood 
through a common search for God.

Together we discover the Lord and his gifts 
building up the community
through people and events.

Praying together and listening together to the Scriptures 
reinforce our bonds of friendship

Our celebration of the Eucharist, 
the efficacious sign of our unity in love,
makes us more aware of our presence
at the heart of the Christian community.

Strengthened by the bread of life, broken and shared, 
we go out as a team of apostles
to those who seek our presence and our help. 

 

25. Affirming Each Person

Brotherhood develops first of all
in the local community,
where everything should favor mutual respect
and harmonious relations.

By sharing responsibilities,
recognizing one another's talents,
and cooperating in a work
essential to the Church,
we contribute to the personal development
of each brother.

By “bearing one another's burdens,” (Gal 6:2)
by forgiving others and forgetting self,
by understanding and mutual support,
we forge true friendships
which go as far as fraternal correction. 

 

26. Loving Relationships

Many opportunities for knowing,
accepting, and loving each other
arise from our sharing of the same ideal
of life and apostolate.

Differences in age, mentality, and character,
as well as the diversity
of our tasks and talents,
reveal the wealth of the Spirit
in the variety of his gifts.

Through our relationships 
with our brothers and with others,
we find graces of conversion.

 

27. Discernment and Progress

Christ is present among us
whenever we gather for community meetings
to deepen our faith
and our sense of mission.

We direct our apostolic effort first of all
toward making our own community dynamic.

We periodically meet to review
our community attitudes and actions.

In the presence of God and of one another
we are willing to examine
our apostolic objectives, 
projects, and availability.


29. An Open Community

The local community is not turned in on itself.

Rather, it adopts as its own
the spiritual and apostolic goals
of the province
and of the whole Institute.

Furthermore, a true fraternal community
sensitizes its members
to the needs of the world
and leads them to give of themselves
in carrying out the mission of the Church.

 

30. Community Witness

The life-giving love and the worship given God
within our communities
can have a positive influence
on the other members of the Church.

Our community life in brotherhood
reveals the communal dimension
of the call to be a Christian;
it becomes a sign of God's presence
in the world.

Our communal lifestyle
is the most effective invitation to others
to embrace the religious state.

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The Educational Charism of the United States Provinces of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart

Statement

The charism of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart is a gift from God to the Church.  Our predecessors made us heirs of this charism through their devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  As members of a school community striving to embody this charism, our primary mission is the evangelization of young people.  Fundamental to our educational charism is the response of André Coindre to poor, neglected, and dechristianized youth.

Today we draw our inspiration from a spirituality of love expressed in the Gospel and lived through the compassion of Christ.  This spirituality informs, shapes, and directs the educational ministry of the school community.  Through our commitment as professional educators in the faith, we nurture and model love and compassion in Christian community

Each and every student is known, valued, treasured, and taught in partnership with the family.  Hospitality, availability, personal interest, and concern for others are hallmarks of this charism.  We emphasize the formation of the whole person, traditional values, high expectations, self-discipline, fairness, professional competence, and collaboration.  The respect, kindness, and concern which flow from the charism are signs within the school of the compassion of Christ.

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Brother Polycarp: Workbook 2
Circular of Brother Polycarp, Paradis, January 1, 1844.

I. Fraternal Charity, Soul of Our Congregation

May the love and Spirit of the Lord be always in you, my good Brothers, through Jesus our Savior. 

I am pleased, my very dear Brothers, that through Jesus Christ our Lord I again have the occasion to make a wish for you, the fulfillment of which, in overwhelming us with a veritable interior joy, will let us experience the most chaste delights while uniting us by an indissoluble bond to him who is all love.  Love, my good Brothers, such is the gift that we will never cease to ask of the Lord for you and for us during the course of this new year.  It is the indispensable virtue for every congregation, indispensable above all for ours, whose unity can be its whole strength. 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”   There is no other commandment greater than these.  (Mk 12:30-31 RSV).  Such is the yoke that the Lord imposes, however much it may be a command to love only.  Ah, my very dear Brothers, would this not be the place to exclaim in protestation with St. Augustine: “What, Lord?  Was it not enough that you permitted us to love you?  Was it necessary, then, to make it a commandment?  Beauty always ancient and always new, how late have I known you and how long I have delayed to love you.” 

The knowledge of God and of His attributes is more than sufficient to cause in our souls the birth and growth of this love of which your grateful hearts should be filled.  I am not today speaking to you of that love of God that should be the motive of all your actions; I wish to speak only of the second part of the great commandment: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  (Jn 13:34 RSV).   Such, then, is the measure of love that we should have for our Brothers: to love them as Jesus Christ has loved us.  Now, how has Jesus Christ loved us?  To the point of becoming for us the victim of sin by dying on the cross after the most outrageous injury and ignominy.  Such is how God has loved men: to the point of giving them His Son.  If, then, he has loved us to such an extent, we should also love one another, as St. John said.  St. Augustine said in reflecting on this precept: “The Lord wanted to give so much weight to this command that he went so far as to say: ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’  (Jn 13:35 RSV).  Doubtlessly, we all want to be disciples of the Lord right up to the end, but are we?  Can men know us for disciples of the Lord by our charity?  Do we love one another, as St. John says, “not in word or speech but in deed and in truth? (I Jn 3:18 RSV)  The Savior, as if fearing that we would not give enough attention to this new commandment, repeats it in a thousand places in the Holy Scriptures. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ...This I command you, to love one another.” (Jn 15:12, 17 RSV).  And St. John Chrysostom adds that our Savior goes even further in the prayer that he addresses to his Father: “That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (Jn 17:21 RSV).  And elsewhere he again says: “I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one” (Jn 17:23 RSV).  O infinite charity of my God, O love without limit, O incomprehensible condescension!  To be one with God, to be absorbed into him...  Have you ever seriously weighed, meditated on, these divine words, my very dear Brothers?  Have you ever savored them?  Have they ever refreshed you down to the bottom of your heart?  Can you conceive of their strength today? “That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (Jn 17:21 RSV), one in will, one in opinion, one in conduct.  Such is the true picture of a religious congregation; do we recognize ourselves?  Yes, my good Brothers, let us be firmly convinced that fraternal charity should be the soul of our Congregation, and that inasmuch as it is so animated, so shall it live, prosper, and, like the mustard seed, grow branches that will bear abundant fruit and in the shelter of which will come to rest a multitude of souls, saving themselves from the shipwreck which today is so difficult to avoid on the stormy sea of the world.  But if, on the contrary, fraternal charity would become weakened or extinguished, have no doubt about it, we shall see this weakened and lifeless Congregation go up in flames like straw.  If then, my very dear Brothers, as I do not doubt it, you are animated by the Spirit of the Lord and have at heart the good of your Congregation and of the glory of God, equip yourselves with charity as St. Paul says, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14 RSV).  Be as Our Lord said: absorbed in him with God the Father so as to be one with him, all in one.

Do you want to know now what should be the principal characteristics of your charity for it to produce true brotherly unity?  The Great Apostle will tell you: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” (1 Cor 13:4-6 RSV). 

The first two qualities are, as you should understand them, of a very great importance to preserve unity.  Yes, we have to bear patiently the defects of everybody and above all of those with whom we have the happiness of being associated.  We are all human and consequently full of defects and imperfections; we all furnish plenty of occasions for our neighbor to practice patience.  From another point of view, since we are very weak and very disabled, we then need to be helped and supported.  This is why, in accordance with St. Paul, we should bear one another's burdens.  And neither should we allow our charity to be puffed up with pride, but let us strip ourselves of all sort of pride through a deep realization of our lowliness and wretchedness so that our charity can allow the utmost equality to find its way into our midst, and this equality, which is an effect of charity and love, will contribute much to the increase of charity and the preservation of unity. 

Finally, love is not jealous or boastful and does not insist on its own way.  Whoever is endowed with love wishes as much good for his brothers as for himself , and rejoices at their successes as much as at his own.  And from there it is easy to conclude that he who finds his happiness in the happiness of others is far removed from any thought of self-interest or ambition. 

If charity, to be preserved in all its purity, must be adorned with all the virtues, the person who wants to be thus enriched had better provide against many enemies, for all the vices seem to arm themselves for war against fraternal charity.  There are a few vices in particular that deal slier and deadlier blows: pride, envy, ambition, impatience, and indocility.  Self-love, above all, is the implacable enemy of fraternal charity; there is nothing more opposed to charity and unity than self-love and a certain attachment to one's own opinion and particular conveniences.  Accordingly, the masters of the spiritual life call it, among other things, the capital enemy of any kind of order and unity, the plague of religious life and of all societies. 

How many things remain to be said on such an interesting subject!  But I am cutting it short and I end by recommending these precious virtues to you: charity and unity, which will strengthen us against the enemy of good.  Please accept, my good Brothers, these few admonitions from the one whom the Lord has placed over you not to be your master but your father, in which capacity he holds you all in his heart as his very dear children.  You will strive, I am convinced, to please him and even more to glorify God and to sanctify yourselves by putting into practice the virtues that he recommends to you.  My very dear Brothers, may these few words dictated by love bear in your hearts fruit for salvation and serve to maintain understanding and religious spirit among you, and I shall be fully compensated and consoled for the heavy load that you have placed on my weak shoulders. 

I am and will always be in Jesus Christ your very loving and poor servant.

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