When Cristiana asked me to present some ideas on my Vision for Edmund Rice Schools, I put together some thoughts that speak to Mission, Vision and Values in the context of the Consortium of Edmund Rice Schools, inclusive of the seven countries that now form our Province: Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Dominica, Peru, Uruguay and the United States.
My remarks will hopefully reflect the theme for this year’s School Leaders Meeting – Think Differently, Act Boldly, Inspire Greatly. In speaking of a vision, I focus heavily on hopes – both present hopes and future hopes.
With this in mind, my primary hope and vision is that our schools, be they the separately incorporated ones or the Archdiocesan and Diocesan ones will be today, tomorrow and always – faithful to the Essential Elements of an Edmund Rice Christian Brother Education. These seven elements were developed by bringing together Edmund Rice educators from across the Americas to put on paper the ideals and values that we believe should be at the forefront of an Edmund Rice Christian Brother school in our part of the world.
The educators who helped create these seven elements surely – thought differently, acted boldly and inspired greatly. The seven elements mirror and are guided by the charism and spirit of Blessed Edmund Rice, who “Deeply aware of the Father’s providential presence in his life – was moved by the Holy Spirit to open his whole heart to Christ present and appealing to him in the poor.”
My hope and vision is that our schools will today, tomorrow and always – be faithful to Blessed Edmund’s special charism of reaching out to the poor and marginalized in our midst. His mission of educating those most vulnerable, is our mission as well.
The seven elements are also grounded in the teachings and life experience of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In Luke’s Gospel, we read: “Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath. When he stood up to read from the Scriptures, he was given the book of Isaiah the prophet. He opened it and read.
- The Lord’s Spirit has anointed me, because he has chosen me to tell the good news
- to the poor. The Lord has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners, to give sight
- to the blind, to free those who suffer, and to say – This is the year the Lord has
My friends, by the end of this passage, St. Luke tells us, “When the people in the meeting place heard Jesus say these things, they became so angry that they got up and threw him out of town.”
My hope and vision for our Edmund Rice schools is that no matter how difficult the task, we will today, tomorrow and always - remain firmly rooted in the Gospel teachings of Jesus, our Brother who dared to think differently, act boldly and aspire greatly.
The seven elements are very much reflected in the Constitutions of the Congregation of Christian Brothers which tell us that, “We are missioned by the Church for the evangelization of youth, and especially for the education and care of the materially poor.”
They go on to say, “In our mission of evangelization we endeavor to proclaim Gospel values, to affirm the dignity of all people and to work for justice and peace.”
And still further, we read, “In the work of evangelization, we recognize that in all our ministries we are in partnership with others. We recognize that the charism of our Founder is shared by many of our partners in mission and we are committed to nurturing this reality. We especially encourage parents and lay teachers to assume an increasing responsibility for the heritage of Catholic education.”
Yes, our Constitutions give us the mission of educating young people, and of teaching them to recognize God’s love for them and in turn to love themselves and their neighbor.
My hope and vision is that your boldness and your aspiring will today, tomorrow and always – be faithful to this mission of evangelizing and educating youth in the Catholic faith.
My overarching hope and vision for our schools is that we will always recognize that Edmund Rice schools are built upon these foundations:
- The Essential Elements of an Edmund Rice Christian Brother Education
- The Gospel message of Jesus Christ
- The charism of Blessed Edmund Rice
- and the Mission of the Christian Brothers
These components are the foundation, the building blocks, upon which our schools can continue to grow and evolve as the world around us changes.
So, how do we remain faithful to who we say we are today and who we want to become tomorrow? As humans, we are always in the process of becoming who God has called us to be of becoming better people. Our schools are no different. They are always in the process of becoming welcoming communities of faith and learning where our students can experience God’s love, and where they can grow in awareness of who God is calling them to be.
As Edmund Rice educators, we accept the task of helping our students discover who they are and how they fit into today’s world, so that they can be tomorrow’s leaders.
My hope and vision is that each of our schools will place a strong emphasis on the following:
- Teaching the Catholic faith both in and outside of the classroom
- Achieving academic excellence by giving students the tools they need to take the next step in their education.
- Advocating for those in our society without a voice by speaking up on issues that are relevant to Catholic social teaching. Advocacy is not meant to be safe or comfortable. It is meant to be challenging and disturbing. When we become disturbed enough to speak out, we become true advocates for others. We become bold and aspirational.
- That all of our extracurricular activities, whatever they be, will be opportunities to teach our students good sportsmanship, the benefits of working together to achieve a goal and the value of respecting their own dignity and that of others.
- That all those who partner with us in mission (all of you on this Zoom) will continue to be guided and directed in collaboration with one another.
My friends, reading the signs of the times, it does appear, that there will be a day when the Christian Brothers will no longer be available to be fully involved in our schools. This is not that day. Let me repeat that – this is not that day. But, when that day does come, my hope and vision is that we will be secure in knowing that you, our lay colleagues, will continue the legacy of Blessed Edmund Rice and the Christian Brothers, in ensuring that the Essential Elements of an Edmund Rice Christian Brother Education, and all that entails will remain today, tomorrow and always at the heart of the school community.
These things I know today –
- Our schools are remarkable educational centers that despite occasional setbacks educate the hearts and minds of the young.
- Our schools are accomplished and recognized by others as being steeped in our Catholic faith, and as being institutions that care for our communities, especially the less fortunate.
- Our schools live up to the words on the papers that define our mission, vision and values.
- Our schools are in good hands because they are at once and always in your hands and in God’s hands.
- Our schools are beacons of hope for tens of thousands of young people who count on us to be role models to be calm voices that speak to them with honesty and integrity, in a society that at times leaves them behind.
So, today, my hope and vision for our schools is that tomorrow, we will always remember who we are and where we come from. That we will remain forever faithful to our roots and foundation. That we will always strive to be true to our calling. That we will always know and feel Blessed Edmund’s presence among us. And that we will always live within God’s loving and compassionate embrace.
Let me conclude by saying that many of you are beneficiaries of an Edmund Rice Christian Brother education. I am the beneficiary of such an education. Let us have the courage to think differently, to act boldly and to inspire greatly in ensuring that the education we received will be passed on to others who will in turn pass it on to still others.
Thank you. Live, Jesus, in our hearts Forever.