The preamble of the original draft of the Goals and Criteria states that “…Sacred Heart education is deeply concerned for each student’s total development: spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical. The essence of a Sacred Heart school emphasizes serious study, educates to social responsibility, and lays the foundation of a strong faith.” These words are worth considering this coming week as we celebrate Catholic Schools Week in the United States.
Sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association, this annual celebration of Catholic education begins the last Sunday of January. The week affords schools the chance to share the values and contribution of Catholic education with their communities. This year’s theme for Catholic Schools is: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed. So what does a week like this mean to those of us engaged in Sacred Heart education?
A starting point for us might be the hopes articulated by the Heads of the Sacred Heart schools across the world at the V International Heads of Schools Conference, Mexico, 2015.
United in the call to form global citizens whose compassion is rooted in the experience of interiority, at this meeting Sacred Heart Educators spoke of their confidence in youth in whom “…we recognize wonder and hope.” The Sacred Heart educators stated:
We want to encourage them in their path forward towards humanization. We hope
to create cultures in our institutions in which interiority may be developed simultaneously
with critical thinking, compassion and faith. We are committed to educating to astonishment
so that young people may encounter Mystery. In this moment and experience, we sense that the
young will come to see themselves as God does-fully alive imbued with Christ’s Spirit. We know
young people are endowed by grace. We have complete confidence in their capacity to be inspired
agents of transformation.
- V International Heads of Schools Conference, Mexico, 2015
Ideally, Sacred Heart learning communities and institutions are Christ centered. The legacy of Sophie is that Sacred Heart Educators hold the spirituality of the Open Heart of Jesus. Sacred Heart Educators
hope to form young people who contemplate the wounded world through the eyes of Jesus so that the transformation which they effect is one that builds the Body of Christ. Educators of the Sacred Heart hope that our graduates will be among the leaders whose decisions are guided by compassion and thoughtfulness.
Learning encompasses critical thinking. Within the philosophy of Sacred Heart education, instruction has never been envisaged as running parallel to the religious, psychological and social development of the student, but rather as an essential component of the total educational experience.
Intellectual training in itself a means of developing virtues and habits which have much to do with
the ability to live a fully human life. Classroom instruction under the guidance of a teacher
who appreciates the personal dignity and worth of each student is a humanizing experience and
one that leads naturally to a Christian conception of life. Everything in the Society’s curriculum
and methods presupposes that fact.
- Conference to Educators of the Sacred Heart Mary Quinlan, RSCJ
The objective is to encourage students gain self- knowledge, energy and purpose so that they may become people of conviction and compassion. In the end, all activity within the learning community is chosen to help students discover their gifts for the service of God. Learning, serving, leading, succeeding as activities all intend to form conscience and instill those skills and attitudes which enhance critical thinking and compassionate acting. From the earliest days, all pedagogical practices
were intended to engage the students in a holistic manner to ensure that their hearts, minds and wills are formed so that they become people of conviction and compassion. The formation of character, the development of integrity and the rootedness in truth were considered to be essential characteristics of excellence at the Sacred Heart.
During the coming week, let us pray in thanksgiving for the Educators of the Sacred Heart, in hope for the Students of the Sacred Heart, in partnership with the Families of the Sacred Heart and in humility that all of the energy of our school communities serves as a means for people to experience God’s love revealed in the world through our words and our actions.
Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ is Head of the Conference of Sacred Heart Education.