Rule of Life – Community in the School Setting
Letter… to our colleagues
Dear Colleagues and Associates,
Greetings from your Brothers in mission. Every six years a representative body of Brothers of the Sacred Heart called a general chapter assembles in Rome to deal with matters regarding our government, life, and work throughout the world. A chapter is the highest authority in our institute after the Holy See.
As a complement to the publication of the Acts of our 32nd General Chapter, we wrote a series of letters asking the Brothers in their various roles to share responsibility with us for translating the chapter’s decisions into action. When it came to promulgating the ordinances and recommendations of the chapter related to our mission to evangelize young people through education, we realized that a letter addressed only to the Brothers would be inadequate. Our experience and our Rule of Life attest that we share responsibility with you, our colleagues and associates, for the religious and moral formation of the young. Wherever we are, Brothers are part of a constellation consisting also of lay men and women, priests, associates, and other religious whose generosity, dedication, and diverse areas of expertise join forces in promoting the natural and supernatural growth of the young.
We are writing to you because we want to maximize the importance we place on forming apostolic teams wherever Brothers minister to the young. No one, lay or Brother, priest or sister, should minimize his or her distinctive role in today’s Church. Although Brothers and sisters have historically been the principal figures in Catholic schools and other works of the Church on behalf of the young, recommendation 16 of our chapter asks us to give priority to collaboration in the formation of a team of colleagues, particularly of lay colleagues who share our ministry of Christian education. The recommendation asks us to find creative ways to do so.
In our letter to the Brothers on your educative team we spoke of the need to revitalize our religious community and to live our Rule of Life to sharpen our religious identity and to provide a supportive gospel climate for our ministry of education. Since religious community and rule are not means appropriate to those whose vocation is that of a faithful lay person in the Church, please permit us to offer some parallel reflections, first on spiritual gifts which the lay identity brings to the educative work, and then on the united contribution we make together in forming a broad educative community.
The Second Vatican Council described a spirituality of Christian lay people in dynamic terms: “The laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God (LG 31).” The fabric of your daily life is woven in a secular setting, in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life. Jesus in his earthly existence revealed the dignity of such ordinary human realities by using the speech and imagery of plain everyday life. He sanctified human ties, especially those of the family, as the heart of all social structures. He chose to lead the workaday life of an artisan typical for his time and place.
You engage in a particularly lay spirituality when you search to find Christ present in the places where you study, work, and build friendships and loving relations. A lay spirituality leads you to find Christ in your social, professional, and cultural endeavors and to express your relationship with him through your life of prayer and service. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici 15, 17)
Your deepest contribution to the evangelization of the young will be to give witness to the faithful search for God in your ordinary daily life as a layperson. You give this witness by your family commitments, your professional service to the young, and your active participation in the life of the Church. Young people need the example of faithful lay men and women as models of holiness and fidelity practiced in the ordinary circumstances of life, in both the single and married state.
Catholic education cannot easily be realized without the witness of a school community which is built on close relationships among lay and religious teachers, parents, students, clergy, and the local people. Our Rule of Life expresses this belief and our chapter emphasized it. And so we call you and the Brothers on your apostolic team to work with renewed vigor toward to the formation of such close adult relationships.
What is so urgent about building a sense of Christian community in a school or an educative center? Our general chapter considered it an unfortunate condition of our times that there are few places of true hope for youth. Adult society often ignores them, abandons them to self-destructive behaviors, exploits them, or offers them the hollow promise of materialism. The chapter also noted that in developing countries where material resources are scarce and in developed countries marked by a growing contrast between the haves and the have nots, it is young people who are the first victims of the unequal distribution of wealth. Young people need an educative communal setting to serve as a springboard of hope for their future.
Young people have many questions about their future to ask the preceding generations: How have we come to this point? Is this state of affairs irreversible? The young man in the gospel asked Jesus “What must I do to have eternal life?” The young put the same question in today’s language: “What must we do to ensure that life – the flourishing life of the human family – overcomes injustice?” Our educative centers must be places where concerned Christian adults listen to the deepest questionings of the young and respond from the context of our faith. We must create a community of honest dialogue about eternal values.
General chapter recommendation 13 strongly reaffirms the urgency and diversity of our educative mission toward young people. The Church continues to call us to that mission, as the message of Cardinal Angelo Sodano to the chapter’s delegates testifies: “The Holy Father strongly encourages your ministry to youth, and he urges the Brothers of the Sacred Heart to continue to devote their best energies to dialogue with youth and to form them to the Heart of Christ by using the best means available to attract them to the ideals of the Gospel.” We believe the “best means available” is to create an educative community where the young can be welcomed into the Church in a spirit of respectful dialogue, where they can experience genuine Brotherhood without divisions, conflicts, or discrimination, where they experience the Spirit of Jesus in our adult relationships, in the spirituality we live, and in our relationships with them.
Action Points for our Shared Mission
In recognition of the need for a diversity of vocations in the Church and for a rich variety of contributions to educative community, we ask you to join with the Brothers with whom you work in accepting responsibility for applying five principles for action mandated by our general chapter. What are these concrete action principles?
We attach great importance to the preparation of new generations of teachers and to the Christian animation of teaching teams.
We believe deeply in the mission which comes to us from our founder: evangelization of young people through education. We have expressed our mission over the years through many means, chiefly through schools, which we consider the privileged place for our apostolic activity. Today the Church needs the complementary ministries of laity, religious, and priests to accomplish its educational mission. We invite you to challenge us and to collaborate with us in developing an apostolic team which forms new generations of religious and lay men and women sharing the same vision of Christian education.
The chapter realized that the wider promotion of our charism and of our educational mission will require careful preliminary study. Recommendation 50 invites contributors to such study. It also gives a threefold goal for such programs aimed at formation of teams of Brothers, lay colleagues, and associates: to deepen the understanding of our charism, of our history, and of the essential elements of our educational heritage.
To evangelize through education is to humanize. The chapter expects close collaboration between Brothers and colleagues in making the changes needed in our educational works to:
- develop education programs aimed at free and responsible human growth;
- create a liberating environment where youth can encounter the humanizing message of Jesus;
- aim for holistic education of youth adapted to their real needs and real situation, an education in spiritual and human values leading toward effective social and Christian involvement.
Evangelization through education includes a special mandate to provide young people with formation in the faith. In adopting Ordinance 9 asking for new initiatives for evangelizing and catechizing today’s young people, the delegates had no intention of weakening our commitment to our schools or other existing works. However, they wanted to invite us to unleash our creativity, to think beyond the status quo, to investigate how our works can heighten the interest of young people in programs of evangelization and religious education.
- In our schools there may be a need for more effective pastoral activities;
- Our camps or vacation programs can search for ways to reach young people who are distant from or neglected by the Church;
- Where we work in parish centers, there may be ways to involve young people more effectively in different forms of communal and Church life.
As these examples suggest, we must work together to identify new initiatives needed to form the young to the good news and the discipleship of the Gospel.
Evangelization through education gives special attention to those most in need of good news. Among the diverse calls that reach us, we give preference to deprived children and to less developed regions.
Recommendation 15 asks us to evaluate our preferential option for the poor in all our educational works. But evaluations are useless if they don’t lead to concrete actions to help the materially poor:
- our schools and other works must respond to the needs of students with family problems and with social, financial, and educational difficulties;
- our schools and other works must be open to the neediest young people;
- our schools and other works must provide formation programs which show young people the way to Christian social involvement, such as through the twinning of schools and social institutions.
The missionary spirit urges us to undertake works of evangelization in countries where Christianity is still young.
At a time when our numbers are decreasing, we run the risk of closing ourselves within well-established works and of losing our missionary zeal. The chapter asks us to do the opposite, to expand our spirit of mission and of evangelization among young Churches. Ordinance 10 offers concrete ways of responding, of which the most challenging for you is to join us for a time in our orphanages, schools, and other works of the southern hemisphere. If you want to investigate ways to respond to this call, please contact one of the Brothers with whom you work. The presence of lay missionaries who share our vision would be a rich grace for missionary Brothers as well as for the young.
Our recent general chapter and the international meeting on New Evangelization which preceded it in 1992 had a vision of Brothers, lay colleagues, sisters, and priests working in close cooperation to accomplish our evangelizing mission. Evangelization requires the visible witness of persons and communities who live what they say they are. The most important step for us all to take together, is our own deep conversion and renewal. We need to question ourselves and one another mutually on the credibility of our personal and communal witness to the young. A second step is for us as Brothers to find ways to dearly articulate our educational vision and our spiritual charism so that we can share it with you our colleagues and associates. And finally, we must together develop ways of forming a generation of educators and associates collaborating in the mission of evangelizing young people through education which was entrusted to us by our founder.
We take great joy in your support and in the service you render, and we will make good use of our visits during the coming three years to thank you in a personal way. Our visits will also give us the opportunity for mutual exchange with you about our general chapter’s vision of collaboration as a diversified team of apostles.
Members of the General Council
Brother Bernard Couvillion, SC,
Brother Claude Cadoret, SC
Brother Ramón Luis Garcia, SC
Brother Mathieu Cabo, SC
Brother Jean-Guy Roy, SC