Education is a foundational theme, for all communities, countries and cultures, to become human and develop in order to have a place of dignity in society. The Second Vatican Council affirmed the priority of education when it said that : “The Sacred Ecumenical Council has considered with care how extremely important education is in the life of man and how its influence ever grows in the social progress of this age. Indeed, the circumstances of our time have made it easier and at once more urgent to educate young people and, what is more, to continue the education of adults.” [Introduction, DECLARATION ON CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, GRAVISSIMUM EDUCATIONIS, published by the Second Vatican Council, 28th October 1965.]
This priority of the mission of education and its relevance for all times, was expressed by Professor Joseph Ki-Zerbo [A burkinabè politician (1922 – 2006), historian and a great promoter of Education for all of Africa.] in this cry : "Educate or Perish", a very telling title of one of his works. As educators of the Assumption, in whatever role or mission, wherever we may work and who we accompany, we could say the same thing, because education is one of the reasons why the Assumption is here, it is the Assumption’s contribution to the building of the Kingdom.
Education is so important to us that it brought us together at Auteuil (Paris), in July 1998, the first International Congress on this theme, a Congress whose fruits have been put together in the booklet that we have come to know as the Reference Text, that continues to guide our way of educating, until today.
In the meantime, tremendous progress has been made, great opportunities have been offered to us, but also new challenges that push us to be in continuous discernment so as to make the right choices. The crises in some parts of the planet affect others as well. The globalization of problems even changes the way one understands oneself and understands one’s place in the world ; it invites us to find local solutions in resonance with what others are suffering.
It is imperative for us to form men and women for our time, bearers of convictions, driven by passion and audacity, as the subtitle of this gathering says so well and as an irrevocable injunction, that already lives in us and is tracing a path for us. This defines a way of being to carry out the educational project of the Congregation. For everyone, young and old alike, we all know that we are all called each day, according to the invitation of Saint Marie Eugenie, to become more and more who we are "... as fully as possible", a fullness that can only come if we remain attached and connected to our sources, with faith.
Education, a work of Faith
The desire to work together and to trace the paths for today brings us back to the sources. The AdHoc Team had recommended that we revisit different documents (the reference text, the 2006 General Chapter pre-capitular texts) to inspire us and animate our journey towards this International Education Gathering. These readings will enable us to ground our reflections on our foundational roots, with the certainty that the charism of the Assumption generates a force of "evangelical transformation" that comes in many ways and at various levels (personal, social, ecological, etc.).
As the well-rooted tree renews its leaves, we must always return to the sources – to drink, be renewed and from there move on, recharged with new energies. There is always something new to discover in the heritage that Marie Eugénie has left us, a legacy that bears the trace of her passion for education. Our challenge will always be to adapt the relevance of our received charism to the new situations of our societies. For this to happen, we must take the time to contemplate our present reality, to "understand it”, to "feel it” and to love it as Saint Marie Eugenie said. Yes, education is a work of faith, faith in each person and their potentialities, faith in our own mission, faith in God, in the certainty that it is He who has chosen us, and with us He continues His handiwork.
The first sisters who came to bring the seeds of the Assumption into this land of the Philippines were filled by the faith which inspired their audacity and sustained their passion. We will remember them during this historic gathering marking the 20th anniversary of the First Congress of Education in Auteuil. The call to faith comes with responsibility and commitment to work for the freedom and dignity of persons, with love that never grows tired.
Education, a work of Love
Not long ago, listening to an Assumption teacher, I was amazed by the passion that animated her, and pushed her to organize her life according to her mission with young people. Education is really a passion for her and I dare to say that this is also true for all of us who feel in our soul, that we are educators. In fact, as General Council during our visits to the Provinces, listening to the people who work in the Assumption, most of the time we felt how they had the fire burning within them that stimulates and gives them reason to be there, to act and to serve others.
Through the sharing of our experiences, we can enrich each other and expand the common culture that we transmit and pass on. Passion, like fire, can be passed on to one’s neighbor. It is transmitted through listening and the interest that one has for the other, for what they do and the way they do what they do. This willingness to give and receive will help us to benefit from all that we are going to live together.
It is imperative for us to fulfill our educational task, but also to mobilize others around us, so that education is effectively recognized as a priority sector. Because even if it appears in the government programs of many countries, these do not always offer the necessary conditions to accompany learning about life.
Very often, our mission as educators makes us versatile. By forces of circumstances, it makes us creative amidst all the difficulties, exposing us on all fronts. It sometimes may look like some social service activity, for example, when we have to provide food for the children so that they can study, or assume what the parents cannot give, without taking their place, and so on. This would not be surprising for Marie Eugenie because of the compassion that marked her actions. Here is what she wrote at the conclusion of one of her very first writings on education : “above the inconstancy of human sentiments, the untiring strength of Jesus Christ, who never abandons anything, is never discouraged, is stopped by nothing ; He who always loved, is ready to pour the stream of His divine charity in those who are His. When our own love is exhausted … then let us approach Him, let Him love in us… He will show us that none of our efforts should be the last, and that zeal, no less than the divine love from which it comes, can ever say : It is enough.” [MME, Counsels on Education]
Let us be led by this call to live education as a work of love, a love that never despairs of others. This goes with unreserved self-giving, a clear awareness of our duty to serve and contribute to the common good of society, the Church and the world.
Education, a work of Hope
Marie Eugénie once said that "education (...) is a work of humble patience … it is necessary to wait for the germ to develop slowly.” [MME, Instruction de chapitre, 1er octobre 1876] To educate, is actually, to hope. To hope in every child, in every man, in every woman. Hope also, because God is present in the cosmos and His Kingdom is at work. Today more than ever, it is important to go beyond the immediate objectives of our country of origin to think globally ; we need to educate citizens of the world. Indeed, "the contemporary human being today has experience that shows, that what happens in one part of the world can affect others and that no one can feel safe in a world where suffering and misery exists." [La Documentation catholique - n°2529, janvier 2018, p.6] Taking care of the common good as if it were one’s own has become a recommendation for all countries. In order to take on the difficult task of education in today’s society, it is important for all education partners to join forces in honest and open collaboration.
It is good to gather the best of what the Assumption is experiencing, because our educational charism offers a rich, dynamic, engaging and even attractive potential for our contemporaries. There is the need to keep constantly updated in the work of education and to propose relevant responses according to our contexts, taking advantage of the new and available means of communication, for its appropriate expression. In truth, the tools are not lacking ; we must discover, revive and exploit them [Pre-Capitular Documents 2006, General Chapter Leaflet on Ecology and Migration 2012, the document "Towards an Eco-Assumption" of 2015, the Data Base from the Congregational Website].
These ten days that we will spend together offer us a platform for a richer exchange and a globalization of what everyone experiences in their small sphere. The openness to the diversity of our educational experiences in different contexts, the ability to marvel and the desire to learn from each other, will make our exchanges a space of renewal for all, a place of encouragement and mutual appreciation.
The future that we dream for humanity will correspond to the orientations of the education which we will elaborate and will implement. Thus, we will be able to renew the charism from within, to re-express it by updating it, to make known its richness, to share and spread it, to give it more visibility. Social networks put us in touch but we know that nothing replaces a face to face gathering. It would be good not to leave this place without agreeing on how to implement an international network to continue what begins here.
Our mission of education makes us men and women in constant search, heirs of past generations, called to be challenged by the novelty of everyday life. The return to the sources, the welcome of reality and the openness of the heart, will lead us, during this gathering, to remember the path we have traveled since our origins, to give thanks and to "celebrate".
Every day can be an opportunity to celebrate life, our lives, the lives of the youth and adults we accompany, those of our collaborators and partners whom we represent here. This gathering is an invitation to believe that with the spirit of education that is ours, the Assumption can contribute to building societies that are more humane and more adapted to the times marked by its own richness and issues. The educational charism of the Assumption is a unique and irreplaceable gift for our people ; it depends on us to continue to live this with its strength and fervor that was there from our beginnings and will bring us there wherever we are missioned, together with our brothers and sisters today, in a new and significant way.
Our desire is that this beautiful community that we will become during these days of being and working together will be open and available to the wider reach of the entire Congregation that accompanies us these days, thanks to the effective means of communication available to us.
And that, making of this gathering a space where we can once again live the experience of giving and receiving, we may grow, as a family, in the understanding of the charism bequeathed to us by St. Marie Eugenie and be enriched by it, with faith, audacity and passion !
Paris, the 22nd of February 2018
Sister Martine Tapsoba
International Education Gathering 2018
20 years after… celebrating transformative education in the Assumption
rooted, impassioned, audacious
Manila, March 1 – 10, 2018