Salesian schools in Europe meeting

The SDB / FMA commission for Salesian schools in Europe held a meeting in Lisbon, Portugal on the 5/6 April 2013. Salesians and Salesian Sisters from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Britain, Belgium, Czech Republic, Albania, Germany, Poland and Hungry came together to reflect on the role of schools in the Salesian apostolate.

Fr Fabio Attard, Councillor for Youth Ministry for the Salesians in Rome, welcomed everybody and addressed the gathering at the start of the opening session. Fr Fabio asked that the group’s reflections be placed in the context of modern Europe which has values crisis. ‘It is very important to know the young, create school environments where they are happy, enjoy learning, make friends and are respectful of others’ he said.

Fr Fabio spoke about Salesians as very good workers but a little weak on reflection and contemplation. We need to reflect about modern society. ‘Don Bosco’ he said ‘was deeply rooted in God but was deeply in love with society. Schools should be bearers of Good News and should give attention to young peoples’ right to hear the Good News’.

Sr Maria del Carmen, Councillor for Youth Ministry for the Salesians Sisters in Rome, addressed the meeting at its first session. Sr Maria felt that Pope Francis is drawing a map to guide us. The Pope speaks about journeying, building and professing Jesus and on Palm Sunday he preached about joy, the cross and youth. For Sr Maria education is much more than knowledge and skills. It is also about being able to engage with others, participate in dialogue, share and make time for people.

The educator needs a humanity that welcomes, shares, includes people and is able to nurture communion.

Sr Maria spoke about the growing trend to see education as providing skills and knowledge for the workplace. Providing young people with skills is very important but the young also need to be able to cope with life outside the workplace. They need values, the ability to cooperate with others, have initiative, and know what is good. The young person needs to be a competent professional, active citizen and a good Christian.

The commission has developed a document to help Salesian provinces evaluate their schools from a Salesian perspective. This document focuses on the educational project, competency of teachers and the organisational culture of the schools. It identifies crucial aspects of the Salesian school and suggests indicators that provide evidence of the presence or absence of Salesian values and aspirations.

The commission requests that the document be made known in every province. The commission will meet again in April 2013 and it is hoped to get a response from all provinces with respect to issues raised by the document. The 2014 meeting intends to reflect on the theme of family as part of the Salesian educational project.