Bi tħejjija għall‑ftuħ tas‑sena skolastika 2020‑2021, l‑Isqof Awżiljarju Joseph Galea‑Curmi ltaqa’ mal‑edukaturi l‑ġodda fl‑iskejjel tal‑Knisja waqt seminar online organizzat mis‑Segretarjat għall‑Edukazzjoni Nisranija. Aktar minn 150 edukatur ġdid bdew jaħdmu fl‑iskejjel tal‑Knisja f’din is‑sena skolastika l‑ġdida.

Fil-messaġġ tiegħu l-Isqof irringrazzja lill-edukaturi talli għażlu li jgħallmu fi skola tal-Knisja u stedinhom biex jieħdu dejjem bis-serjetà l-formazzjoni kontinwa (ongoing education), b’mod partikolari f’dak kollu li jiddistingwi l-iskola Kattolika u l-etos tagħha.

L-Isqof Galea-Curmi semma ħames karatteristiċi ewlenin ta’ skola tal-Knisja. Beda bil-viżjoni tal-iskola li hi ispirata mill-fidi u li tidher fix-xhieda u l-kliem tal-edukaturi. Semma kif għall-Kattoliċi l-ħajja tal-bniedem hi għażiża f’kull waqt tagħha u proprju għalhekk, wieħed mill-għanijiet prinċipali ta’ skola tal-Knisja hu li tagħti valur u dinjità lil kull student billi tgħinhom jiskopru u jiżviluppaw it-talenti u l-kapaċitajiet tagħhom. Qal ukoll li skola Kattolika għandha tipprovdi formazzjoni ħolistika, inkluż b’mumenti ta’ talb u ċelebrazzjonijiet ta’ fidi, sabiex l-edukazzjoni mhux biss tħejji lill-istudenti akkademikament imma twieġeb għad-domandi essenzjali tal-ħajja.

L-Isqof qal li skola tal-Knisja taħdem biex tkun esperjenza ta’ inklussività b’rispett għad-diversità. Fisser kif din tgħin lill-istudenti biex joħorġu minn mentalità individwalista u hekk jibnu komunità ta’ relazzjonijiet fejn jagħrfu l-ħtiġijiet tal-oħrajn u jgħinu bħal aħwa.

Fi kliem l-Isqof, skola tal-Knisja tqiegħed fiċ-ċentru l-valuri li joħorġu mit-tagħlim soċjali tal-Knisja, fosthom il-formazzjoni għall-impenn soċjali u l-iżvilupp ta’ soċjetà ġusta u ta’ wens b’attenzjoni partikulari għal min hu batut. L-Isqof ħeġġeġ lill-edukaturi biex jgħaqdu flimkien il-professjonalità max-xhieda tal-etos ta’ skola Kattolika.

Matul ix-xhur tas‑sajf saru diversi xogħlijiet bi spejjeż kbar għall‑iskejjel tal-Knisja, b’mod partikolari biex titħares is‑saħħa u s‑sigurtà ta’ dawk kollha li ser ikunu fiżikament preżenti fil-bini tal-iskola. Fejn kien possibbli, ġew ikkonvertiti wkoll partijiet mill‑kunventi fi klassijiet. Kull skola qed tiġi spezzjonata minn uffiċjali tas-saħħa u s-sigurtà sabiex l-iskejjel ikunu konformi mal-linji gwida u l-protokolli maħruġa mill-awtoritajiet tas-saħħa. Matul din is‑sena skolastika, madwar 3,000 edukatur se jkunu qed jgħallmu fil‑livelli kindergarten, primarju, sekondarju u s‑sitt sena post‑sekondarja f’55 skola tal-Knisja li fil-jiem li ġejjin ser jilqgħu mas-17,000 student.

Message by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea-Curmi to new educators in Church schools

I would like to show my appreciation to the Secretariat for Catholic Education for its work carried out with so much commitment and dedication. I extend warm greetings to all educators, and, in a very special way, to the new educators in Church schools. I want you to be aware of the fact that the Church in Malta is grateful for your choice to work in these schools, which are so dear to the Church. You are starting your work at a very difficult time for all schools, because of the present pandemic and the difficulties it has brought with it. I would like to encourage you to meet these challenges bravely.

Church schools give a very important contribution to the evangelising mission of the Church. This input is even more powerful in the context of the specific circumstances of our pluralistic society. Hence, the formation of those who work in Church schools is very important. In a special way, as educators at the beginning of your career, I would like to encourage you to take your on-going formation seriously, particularly education concerning the distinguishing characteristics and ethos of the Catholic school.

I would like you to consider five characteristics which distinguish the Catholic school, and which are often an answer to the experience of life nowadays.

Inspired by a vision that is related to the faith

The vision of the Catholic school is fundamentally inspired by our faith. Pope Francis says that faith opens us to the transcendent. This means that we can look beyond ourselves – towards God. Faith is evident above all in the lived witness given by educators, and this is then merged with their words, which reveal this vision.

When the Catholic school lives and communicates this vision, it becomes the answer to the widespread secularism that transmits a mentality of life without God and all that belongs to him.

Based on a Christian anthropology

The vision of the Catholic school is based on a Christian anthropology. This means that it has a specific understanding of the human person. I will start by mentioning something that is obvious, but should always be reaffirmed: we believe that human life should be cherished at every moment, from the very beginning – that is, from conception – until its natural end. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has just issued a document entitled Samaritanus Bonus (Good Samaritan). I encourage you to read this document. It deals with the care of persons whose life is at a critical and terminal stage. It emphasises the care of human life to the very end. I would like to point out how important this is, especially nowadays when we hear daily that an elderly person has died from the pandemic. There is the mistaken mentality that “this person had arrived at the end of his or her life anyway.” The vision of a Catholic school is based on a Christian anthropology, which values every person at every stage of life, because everyone is created in the image of God, and thus has a tremendous dignity.

Hence the importance of the development of one’s self-esteem. It is vital to help the students discover and develop their talents, and grow holistically, so as to be able to give to others. In Christus Vivit, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation about Young People – where he mentions pastoral care in education – he refers to Carlo Acutis, who died at fifteen years of age. He was a lively, committed young person, who died when he was very young and is going to be beatified on the 10 October. The Pope quotes Carlo Acutis in this sentence, which is so relevant in the field of education: “All people are born as originals but many die as photocopies”. It is so important for us to help the students develop their uniqueness, so that their self-esteem may grow, and they can develop as persons.

This is the answer to what Pope Francis calls the culture of waste – a very widespread mentality in society – which rejects people because they are totally dependent, or outcasts in some way or other, or because they cannot keep up with the rest. However, our vision is based on a Christian anthropology, which values every person.

A holistic formation

The Catholic school should provide a holistic formation, and the whole curriculum should be geared towards this. Religious education is very important, but in a Catholic school this should not be compartmentalised, and unconnected with the whole experience of education. This is why it is vital to have an environment that promotes a holistic development. The moments of prayer and liturgical celebrations should help to communicate this vision.

This is the answer to the fragmentation that is being felt so strongly in the life of young people nowadays. When we insist on a holistic formation, this provides an answer to this fragmentation.

Has at heart the building of a community where one can see unity in diversity

The Catholic school emphasises the spirit of communion that emanates from the faith. We often talk about the importance of teamwork – how good it is to work together, even within an educational environment. However, in a Catholic school, the unity goes beyond teamwork, but is an expression of the faith: of its very nature, the Church should be the home and the school of communion.

Here it is important to emphasise the importance of collaboration, of a partnership where everyone (administration, teachers, other staff, students, families) can give a contribution, and where unity in diversity is seen in all its beauty. Unity should never mean uniformity – where everyone is the same – but it is an appreciation of diversity. As new educators, it is important for you to be aware of this point in the present discussions about the equality law. Church schools and other organisations are insisting on equality with respect for diversity. We are all equal before God, but this does not remove diversity, but it helps us view it as a gift.

This is why Church schools should provide an experience of inclusivity – where no one is excluded, and where students receive a formation that helps them become builders of a society that is based on relationships that strengthen the community. It is worth mentioning the Encyclical which Pope Francis will be signing in Assisi on the 3 October. It is entitled: “We are all brothers”, a quotation taken from St Francis. In this encyclical, the Pope emphasises that we are all ‘brothers and sisters’. This should be seen clearly in the field of education.

This provides the answer to the individualism that is rife, and that makes people think only of themselves. The Catholic school should help students to reject this mentality, so that they can build a community based on fraternal relationships.

Sustained by evangelical values

In a Catholic school, Christ is at the heart of all that happens, and this is apparent in the life, the values, the attitudes, and the choices that are made. An important aspect is the formation for social commitment and the development of a just and caring society, which gives special attention to anyone who is suffering

I refer to the social teaching of the Church, which is very profound. A Catholic school should emphasise the values that derive from the social teaching of the Church. I would also like to quote the words of the Archbishop during his homily at the Independence Day 2020 mass. He based the homily on the principles which Pope Francis had mentioned as necessary for the healing of society. These seven principles are basic for a Catholic education: the dignity of the person, the common good, the preferential option for the poor, the universal destination of wealth, solidarity, subsidiarity, and the care of our common home. Each principle can be discussed at length, but that is not my aim here. I just wanted to draw attention to them. I know that Catholic schools already base a lot of what they do on these principles, and we should continue strengthening these values that are so vital in the social teaching of the Church.

This is the answer to the mentality of indifference and relativism, where these ideals are insignificant.

Professionalism and witness

Semmejt dawn il‑ħames karatteristiċi. L‑iskola Kattolika hi l‑ambjent li jippromwovi dan kollu, fejn l‑istudenti jirċievu l‑appoġġ mill‑edukaturi għal dan. L‑għalliema, LSEs, l‑edukaturi kollha għandhom sehem ta’ valur kbir f’dan kollu. Għalhekk inħeġġiġkom biex tgħaqqdu flimkien il‑professjonalità max‑xhieda tal‑etos ta’ skola Kattolika. Hu importanti li tidħlu diġà b’dan l‑impenn u tkomplu ssaħħuh tul is‑snin.

Jien ċert li s‑Segretarjat għall‑Edukazzjoni Kattolika hu impenjat li jagħtikom is‑sapport kollu li teħtieġu. Nirringrazzja ħafna lil dawk kollha li qed jaħdmu fis‑Segretarjat biex jagħtukom dan l‑appoġġ. Nawguralkom mill‑qalb, lilkom edukaturi ġodda, għall‑ħidma ġdida tagħkom, u nitlob lill‑Mulej iberikkom.

I have mentioned five characteristics. The Catholic school is the environment where these should be propagated, and where the students should be supported to live them. Teachers, LSEs, all educators play a very important role in this. Hence, I encourage you to combine professionalism with the witness of the ethos of the Catholic school. It is important to start off with this commitment and to continue developing and deepening it over the years.

I am certain that the Secretariat for Catholic Education will support your needs. I thank all the members of the Secretariat who are working to provide this support. I wish the new educators happiness in their work, and I ask God to bless you all.

✠ Joseph Galea-Curmi 
    Auxiliary Bishop