Assumption Transformative Education in Spain – a deep, profound, human-spiritual experience …
"Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan
ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan." Jose P. Rizal
("He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.")
I decided to begin with a quotation from our National Hero, Jose P. Rizal, which captures my sentiments as I try to reread my experience of Assumption Transformative Education during our visit to the province of Spain from January 8 to February 15, 2016 !
Many know that Assumption in the Philippines was borne out of Assumption, Spain. For this reason this visit was particularly poignant for me. In my heart of hearts I carried a deep sense of gratitude for the gift that the Assumption is for me and for my people. And I take this opportunity to acknowledge with profound gratitude the courage of the first sisters who, in 1892, braved the long and perilous voyage by sea to undertake this mission in the “far—east” (certainly far from Europe), to the rather unknown archipelago of the Philippines – and who instilled in their first students – a sense of responsibility and active love for God and for country !
I felt it is important for me to contextualize my sharing with this background and to express my joy over discovering the roots, so to speak, of Assumption in the Philippines.
Having visited only nine (9) of the twenty-two (22) communities, I cannot claim to be exhaustive. My account therefore is one of a deep personal experience of learning and growing in my knowledge of and appreciation for Assumption transformative education – which, I believe, is our humble, dynamic response to the needs of our world today.
I shall divide my experience into three – inspired by a framework proposed by one of the leading authors of “transformative learning” – Patricia Cranton : the landscape (what I found that has expanded my perspective) ; the encounter (the meaningful exchanges, the relationships that were forged) ; a renewed perspective (convictions that were deepened, strengthened or reoriented, inspired by the experience) !
It was a joy to enter the “door” of the Province by the place where Assumption first set foot in Spain – Malaga ! The welcome, the climate, the scenery was delightfully warm and charming ! It certainly felt like Spring in January ! And this will mark the entire experience of six (6) weeks even in the cold of Leon.
The sisters provide both the symbolic and real roots in the Province whether it be in the formal school setting of La Asuncion in Pedregalejo, Malaga ; in Leon ; in Cuestablanca ; in Miracruz, San Sebastian ; in Santa Isabel ; in Gijon – or in the social apostolates in Hortaleza as well as in Contrueces – or in El Olivar, Collado and Cuestablanca where the “elders” enjoy the living memory of lives given to God and His mission.
The province is steadfast in its intention to provide a wholistic, integral, transformative education of quality and standard with a very committed group of lay partners who assume the mission as their own.
There is a sense of freedom, joy, spontaneity and celebration that support and facilitate formation, growth and learning among all sectors and groups.
- “Misión Compartida” (shared mission) is in the DNA of the Province – working with others, working together – is the way of being and doing… It is the air that the Province breathes animated by a structure that ensures that it continues to become better and better… at the service of God, the Church and the Kingdom !
“Movimiento Asunción” (Assumption Movement – not a very accurate translation) is what provides for an appropriate accompaniment at every age for all those with whom the Assumption is in relationship.
The field was rich and wide --- Assumption Transformative Education is rooted on fertile ground notwithstanding the challenges that the country faces in the socio-political arena.
- “Titularidad” (ownership of mission), more than the team that accomplishes its task of accompanying the Academic Institutions of the Province with excellence – it is the sense of body-ownership in the Province that made a very strong impact on me. It certainly must have been years of laborious, purposeful work, but the fruits are consoling. The Province speaks an inclusive language that is understood by all ; there is a growing sense of active participation and responsibility among all sectors, in the building of the life of the Province ; common formation sessions, shared leadership and animation as well as recreation together foster a sense of COMMUNITY at the service of mission.
It was a joy to meet such a broad and varied array of persons – each one with a burning desire to engage in genuine conversation and make meaning – each one with a deep love for the Assumption and its mission !
Whether it be with the friends and colleagues of the sisters in their various places of mission ; the various commissions/working teams of the province ; or the Animating Teams (Equipos de Dirección) of schools, the process of Assumption Transformative Education is at work. This “inside-out” movement that involves and engages all those involved in the process – educators, learners, families, wider community, etc… – is palpable and evident. Exchanges were deep and profound – touching essential elements of faith and life… “why we do what we do… what is the reason for all that is happening around us… what has changed in our environment and in the people we serve, live and work with… how can we do what we do well, better… what will help us overcome difficulties…”
My world of colleagues and partners has expanded ! I celebrate the blessing of knowing and touching hundreds of fellow-educators among our sisters and friends in the Province. I rejoice and give thanks for all those with whom I share the quest for relevant and meaningful responses to the realities of today.
A Renewed Perspective
Assumption Transformative Education in Spain, as it should be everywhere, begins with the experience of reality that is interiorized - made to touch the DIVINE – and reflected upon – that allows one’s encounter with reality and with all the opportunities that are available – to modify, improve and make more authentic, one’s perspectives and judgements and strengthen and deepen one’s convictions – so that one may choose words and actions that are life-giving and that contribute to building communion for a better world.
The process is on-going, active and dynamic and thus is never ever finished. At the same time, it is important to realize that each moment is a part of a much wider movement and therefore never absolute, even as it is truly real.
The Visit of the nine (9) communities gave me a glimpse of the reality that the Province of Spain is today ! A Province deeply ROOTED in the charism – that is blessed with sisters who have given themselves to mission – the work for the Kingdom – having lived numerous ruptures/paschs in their lives, and still willing to discover the new forms of mission that is before them now and in the coming years. It is also a Province where the love and service for the local and wider Church is generously given and appreciated. The Province is also very much aware of its own internal and external realities and positions itself strategically, with REALISM according to its possibilities in the wider ambit of Catholic Education (FERE – Federación Española de Religiosos de la Enseñanza) and Religious Life (CONFER - Conferencia Española de Religiosos) in the country.
At the same time, it is a Province that is not afraid to reinvent and be RELEVANT – to learn from, be completed and enriched by others and to risk, going further --- transcending boundaries that limit its horizons --- trying “untried and untested waters” without the fear of making mistakes – because a faithful and wiser hand leads its way. It did this in 1892 --- and it is still doing this today !
My heart wells up with immense and profound thanksgiving for the gift of Assumption Transformative Education that is in the Province of Spain today … and for the indelible experience that is deep, profound, human-spiritual … that has strengthened the conviction in me that our mission is not an end but a vital means --- to extend the Kingdom…
“You will know life and be acknowledged by it according to your degree of transparency – your capacity, that is, to vanish as an end and to remain purely as a means.” – Dags Hammarskjold
Sister MarJo Matias