Dr. Gerald Cattaro, EdD, executive director of the Center for Catholic School Leadership and Faith-Based Education, recently led an 80 member U.S. delegation to the World Congress on Catholic Education celebrating the 50th anniversary of Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Christian Education, Gravissimum Educationis, and the 25th anniversary of the apostolic constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesia. The three-day Congress, held in Rome, aimed to reinvigorate the church’s commitment to education.
Themes of the Congress, according to Archbishop Zani, coordinator of the Congress and and Secretary General of the Congregation of Catholic Education, were
- Catholic education is love: an issue of the heart which involves knowledge and relationship.
- Catholic education is dialogue: an open house, a project that has Christ at its center.
- Catholic education is service: offered in the search for truth, beauty, and what is right and good.
Experts from around the world attended the Congress to discuss how the Christian community globally can contribute to education. The U.S. delegation coordinated and led by Cattaro comprised superintendents of diocese, professors, religious superiors and vicars of Catholic education, and higher education administrators. Among Fordham attendees were Dean Virginia Roach, EdD, and Anita Batisti, PhD. Fordham provided two of four American speakers, Dr. Cattaro and Dr. Elinor Ford, Professor Emerita and former Director of the Center for Catholic School Leadership.
“This was the first Global convening of Catholic School Educators and Fordham played a major role in providing a voice for the American Church amid the current struggles to keep Catholics Schools open,” said Cattaro.
Dr. Cattaro presented on Initial Formation and On-Going Formation, Quality and Evaluation of Formators, which emphasized the need for Catholic school leaders to affirm the Catholic faith, connect with all people, and understand and address the human condition. He stressed that leadership preparation programs move from skills training to contextual training to create transformational leaders who touch the hearts and minds of the students, families, and teachers with whom they work.
Dr. Anita Batisti, PhD, director of the Center for Educational Partnerships, attended the All World Congress Sessions – University level, where Catholic higher educators presented position papers. She was among 2,000 total participants in the Congress where topics ranged from immigrants to multi-religious students to technology.
For Dr. Batisti, the audience with Pope Francis was the highlight of the Congress. “He radiates loves, warmth, sincerity, and true concern and understanding.” Pope Francis mentioned that “Education involves the head, heart and hands are working together in symmetry. An educator not willing to take risks has no place in education.” He warned against education becoming elitist and selective and spoke about expanding educational opportunities to all people.
According to Dr. Cattaro, “It is my hope that the dialogue and momentum brought about by those attended the Congress keep the conversations alive to sustain Catholic schools. That we also offer Catholic education to those at the peripheries, the economically poor. That we keep Catholic schools open to intercultural and interfaith dialogues. In essence, that schools become witnesses of charity and mercy.”
At the closing session, Dean Virginia Roach was asked to comment on her experiences at the Congress. She synthesized her comments into three ideas: Context, Dialogue, and Living and Serving With and For Others. According to Dean Roach, these ideas led her to consider a number of questions.
“Do we really know our context? What do we consider our context? How do we know our context? Do we engage in our context? Do we really engage in dialogue with our students or do we wait politely until they stop talking so we can talk? So we can impart both knowledge and wisdom? Do we really ask questions of our students and faculty or do we play an elaborate game of “guess what I am thinking”? Is our research focused on enhancing the common good? What is motivating the research agendas, social justice? Personal ego or gain? Do we respect the inherent dignity of all learners to help them succeed? For each other? Are we brave enough, humble enough to try new things, admit we don’t have all the answers, try and then try again in pursuit of new knowledge?
“Also, we need to act on the answers to these questions. Too often in the academy we think but don’t do. Most importantly, this Congress has given me an opportunity to stop and reflect and in doing so, has renewed by devotion to the mission, to my work, and to my belief that we can and do make the world a better place – what we are called to do.”
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