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Pope to Jesuit educators: Always put the person at the centre

Pope Francis urges Jesuit educators to prioritise holistic education centered on Jesus, while fostering service and academic rigor to build a more fraternal society.

By Francesca Merlo

Pope Francis met Friday with the International Commission on the Apostolate of Education of the Society of Jesus (ICAJE) in the Vatican, and thanked them for the work they “carry out in Jesuit schools and other schools associated with the mission.”

Realising potential

In prepared remarks, Pope Francis spoke about the initial hesitation of St. Ignatius and his first companions regarding the importance of schools but highlighted their eventual realisation of the “immense evangelising potential” that education holds.

This realisation, said the Pope, has allowed Jesuit schools to ensure that “the message of the Gospel continues to be heard among the new generations, accompanied by the academic and intellectual rigor that characterises them.”

Keep Jesus at the heart of your mission

Pope Francis went on to emphasise the importance of keeping Jesus at the heart of Jesuit education and praised the Jesuits’ commitment to integrating the Gospel into their curriculum and activities, fostering an environment where young people can engage with the teachings of Jesus and contribute to the common good.

“This is true education: accompanying young people so that they discover in service to others and in academic rigor the construction of the common good,” he said.

Pope Francis also highlighted the new Global Compact on Education, which aims to shift the focus of education from personal success to the collective well-being of humanity.

“We need to move from the culture of the ‘I’ to the culture of the ‘we’, where quality education is defined as such by its humanising results and not by economic results,” he stressed. This shift, he continued, requires placing the person at the centre of the educational process.

Lead by example

Pope Francis underscored the need for educators to embody the values they wish to impart to their students. “The best way to educate is through example,” said the Pope, adding “modelling in ourselves what we desire in our students. This is how Jesus educated his disciples.”

The Holy Father called on Jesuit educators to ensure that their formation programs help teachers discover their potential and deep calling to accompany others, particularly those on the margins of society.

A positive future

Bringing his discourse to a close, Pope Francis expressed his optimism about the impact of a renewed global educational pact.

He warned against the violence and polarisation that are currently plaguing the world and he highlighted the need for a hopeful future built on shared responsibilities and common goals.

“Education is a work of sowing and many times ‘we sow in tears to reap with songs’,” he said.

Finally, he concluded, “education is a long-term task, with patience, where the results are sometimes unclear; even Jesus at first did not obtain good results with the disciples, but He was patient, and continues to be patient with us to teach us that educating means waiting, persevering, and insisting with love.”

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