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VIEW FROM INSIDE ROME

World Congress on Education


Vatican City
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What does the educational landscape look like


around the world from the vantage point of
Rome? We have hopes that, given the whirlwind
of educational fads rising and failing in the last half century, and some concerns expressed in the latest
document from the Holy See, that we may find a renewed purpose and effort to clarify and understand the
Church's great treasure-house of philosophy on educational practice and material.
This trip to the World Congress on Education, sponsored by the Holy See's Congregation of
Catholic Education, started out for us in what I believe was a perfect manner. My wife and I,
representing educators and publishers from the United States, arrived a couple days early to
enjoy a bit of this glorious city before getting down to work. Upon arrival, we headed over to
the Basilica Sant'Agostino for Mass. Before Mass, we went to the side altar and visited the tomb
of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, and prayed for everyone we know, especially mothers.
We prayed for our St. Augustine Academy school families, alumni and benefactors, for all who
have participated in the Institute programs over the years, and for all teachers and students
using the Catholic Textbook Project books. It is a group numbering in the tens of thousands
now, but each and every prayer is miraculously multiplied and efficacious, so we offer them for
you all.
The visit to this church was an important step in
orienting our participation here. During mass I
reflected on St. Monica and how everything was
ordered correctly in St. Monica's world. She knew her
son's profound intellectual gifts would take him far and
wide and make him an intellectual figure of historic
proportions, but she also knew that all that really
mattered was his immortal soul's salvation. This is
exactly the right orientation to take to a meeting in
which we contemplate and discuss Catholic education
in the modern world. It is the proper orientation all
Catholic education should be modeled upon, in any time or place, but especially the modern
world. "Ever ancient, ever new," as Augustine said.
If this Congress is to bless the world, it will be because it will have clearly defined Catholic
education's role as a tool of the Church to pass on Catholic culture, both intellectual and moral,
to future generations. This culture we aim to pass on means nothing less than living our
baptismal call to bring Christ to the world through love of neighbor with our ultimate end,

Heaven, as the arbiter of all our acts and decisions. We are not primarily about college and
career, as necessary as those goals are. We are about heaven readiness. Some may think that
sounds trite, or pious, or politically incorrect, but reflecting on Monica's passion and prayer for
Augustine, and Augustine's relentless search for the truth, until Truth found him, Catholic
education can take no other path if it is to be true to its mission. For, our hearts are restless,
Lord, until they rest in Thee."
A final note: Today is the opening day of the Congress, where
we register and have our Inaugural Session in Paul the VI Hall.
[The Holy Father's Wednesday Papal Audience was also this
morning.] It was refreshing to see many familiar faces about St.
Peter's Piazza, from a Saint Augustine Academy family, to Sr.
John Mary Flemming, OP, of the USCCB. We also saw Sister
Mary Anne, OP from Aquinas College in Nashville and Fr.
Belemonte, SJ, superintendent of schools in the diocese of Joliet.
It was a treat to run into Bob Laird of the Cardinal Newman
Society in the registration line, and some of the Ann Arbor
Dominicans.
The opening conferences seemed to follow some of the disparate themes of the Instrumentum
Laboris, the document this Congress is predicated upon. Many good terms were used in
speeches (e.g., Catholic Intellectual Tradition or Catholic Identity), yet as the talks went on it
was clear that different definitions for those terms were being used. Some speakers' use of such
terms did not really square with what one might generally regard as accepted meanings in the
spirit of the intellectual tradition of the Church, if one considers that tradition encompassing
millennia of thought, philosophy, theology, literature, etc.
Following the talks, however, we enjoyed other wonderful
and lively conversations with leaders in Catholic education
in America, including Presidents John Garvey, of the Catholic
University of America and Fr. Sean Sheridan, TOR, of the
Franciscan University of Steubneville, The Hon. Richard
Greco, Jr. of The Montrose Academy, NY, Sister Michelle
Geiger of The Academy of Our Lady in New Orleans, Paul
and Mary Jo Scamperle, Dr. Daniel Guernsey of Ave Maria,
and several other wonderful souls. Seeing all these lights of
excellence in this place gives me great hope in the coming
generations of Catholic education for America. I am not sure
where all the hundreds of others from around the world are coming from, in terms of a Catholic
Intellectual Tradition, but I am hopeful that the United States contingency bodes well for our
own future -- and hopefully other delegates bring a similar conviction.
Arrivederci!